Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Trip across the USA Day 1 and 2

This is a copy of the email that I sent whilst traveling across the USA from Berkeley Lake GA to San Jose CA...

Just thought I'd tell you a little of what we've seen and experienced on our travels so far :-) In case you don't know, we (Mary- Dick's mum and I) are traveling in a Honda Accord Wagon (estate) with a very full back seat (largely clothes and bedding vacuum packed in Space bags) and Pepper, our 13-14 year old collie-lab.

We left Berkeley Lake on Thursday 22nd February about 5.45 am in order to beat the rush hour traffic. Luckily we got on Interstate 20 very easily and headed towards Birmingham, Alabama. The roads were very busy to start with but the traffic thinned out the further away we got away from the big cities. As you can imagine, a lot of the traffic is huge trucks- especially the big parcel companies like UPS and FedEx, however, much to our amusement we've also been counting WalMart trucks and saw 12 alone yesterday! We also saw 5 trailer (mobile) homes being transported but decided not to take one to California, though it might be a bit cheaper!

We've been following printed Google maps (of course), a road map of the USA and the GPS on my phone. Dick always says, 'trust the GPS' however, we were glad we didn't just the other side of Birmingham, when it tried to send us to Huntsville, AL because that was the only way we would stay on the interstate. So we had to do a scenic detour which was rather nice as we saw more of the countryside but it took a bit longer. Mary is doing a great job at map reading! It is surprising how much we are seeing from the interstate though. Since then, the GPS has been very well behaved :-) and we have been glad of it (for the geeks among you, it is a service called 'Telinav' - available for some mobile phones)

After Birmingham, we headed to Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis, and saw his tiny home, and stopped for lunch. Then it was off towards Memphis, Tennessee. The roads around Memphis were not only in terrible condition, but very busy. The interstate is not completed around Memphis, so you have to join the local traffic on very narrow lanes with thundering trucks alongside you- interesting! Memphis looked very poor and run down- sad really.

Lastly we headed into Arkansas to Little Rock (Home of Bill Clinton!), having been in 5 states in one day! By this time we were very tired as it had been such an early start, and we'd traveled 585 miles. Mary was delighted to find out that the Holiday Inn had a restaurant and therefore room service, so we didn't have to go out anywhere. All of us were fast asleep by 8 pm - Georgia time. We have already moved from the Eastern time zone into the central time zone and have therefore gained an hour. We'll move to Mountain time again tomorrow once we reach New Mexico.

For those of you concerned about the distances we are travelling, we stop approximately every hour an a half to two hours at the many 'rest-stops' on the interstate- a chance to stretch the legs, and walk Pepper. She is coping with the trip very well- she is very concerned about seeing where I am at all times so it does not take much to persuade her to get back in the car- and the dried chicken treats also help! She has water and food in her bowls wedged in near her and helps herself as she needs it. She seems to sleep most of the time. I put 'sticky shades' on all the windows in the back of the car, so she doesn't get any sun shining directly on her. She is doing really well, she's just a little confused, but I'm sure she'll be delighted when she sees Dick at the other end. The 'rest-stops' themselves for those of you who don't know, are very well resourced. They have free coffee and soft drinks, leaflets about local attractions, and very friendly and helpful staff. Obviously there are also 'restrooms' and also pet walking areas, which Pepper sniffs her way slowly through, so you can imagine, they are not just 5 minute stops!

We've feel like we've traveled across England- having travelled through or past the towns of London, Dover, Conway, Victoria, Oxford, and through Germany- (Bremen, Stuttgart)- Just of few of the names we have recognized along the way. Of course there are also many we can only guess at the pronunciation- especially the American Indian names across Oklahoma.

This morning, we were awake bright and early after a wonderful restful sleep, and after walking Pepper we headed out back onto Interstate 40- we will travel about 1800 miles on this interstate alone! Today we drove about 120 miles before breakfast at Waffle House in Alma, Arkansas, which according to their signs, is the spinach capital of the world! Wonder how they are doing after the recent spinach scares? We also seen signs describing 'Fabulous' Arkansas wine- has anyone ever tasted Arkansas wine? I didn't know there were vineyards here!

We have also seen number plates on cars from Florida to Michigan. We are getting a geography lesson on the way- especially for the mid US states which neither of us are too sure of the location of, so we keep having to look up where they are- I thought Michigan was a lot further north!

Once we crossed into Oklahoma, we saw all kinds of landscapes- huge lakes and reservoirs to start with and then the hills of the bottom of the Ozarks. Finally into tornado alley and the very windy flat basins where you can see for miles. The trees all seem to be bent to one side from the constant wind. There is a huge wind farm at Weatherford- with wind turbines in every direction- they look very graceful from a distance. In fact, I just found on Wikipedia that Oklahoma has the most diverse terrain in the USA according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and I can well believe it. We also saw our first small oil pumps- Mary calls them nodding donkeys :-)

We can also see why Oklahoma is called 'Native America' with all the reservations and American Indian heritage. We stopped in Oklahoma City to visit the 'National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum' and saw some fabulous art, artifacts and even a circa 1900 Western Cattle town. It was very interesting and we could have spent the day there, but we had to drive on. By the way, it is also home to the famous original 'End of The trail' statue' -stunningly sad.

We pressed on to a small city called Elk City right on the edge of Oklahoma with clouds forming ominously.. true enough, we are in tornado alley, and we arrived to discover we are under a tornado watch- they were not overly concerned at the front desk though, and told us they would wake us if a tornado warning was issued. Mary was concerned at first but is sleeping like a baby (as is Pepper) as I type!

Today we have only driven 450 miles, but I'm also ready to sleep now. Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico tomorrow!!

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